Mesa man’s memorial

Photo By Erica Mooney
A lone tree sits in a meadow on Hastings Mesa, near Telluride, Colorado. Carnegie Hero Edward Jack Miller lived on Hastings Mesa for at least four decades, and, after his March 1, 2022, death, a memorial was held on his property

By Carol Hiatt//The Norwood Post

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Oct. 17 edition of The Norwood Post and is about Carnegie Hero Edward Jack Miller who lived on Hastings Mesa, 22 miles northwest of Telluride, Colorado. Miller died on March 1, 2022, at the age of 83. It is reprinted with permission.

He was our neighbor for 40 years there about, and I can’t say we were very close. A salty seasoned veteran of the mesa comes to mind when I think of him. He was a hardy soul for sure, and rarely asked for help. He had a dog as a companion, and if the rumors are true a string of women. All the same, he liked to keep people at an arm’s length.

The memorial was on his 40-acre parcel. His barn and the shed were turned into museums of his life’s adventure, filled with antiquated climbing gear and old skis. Several dozen pairs of x-country ski boots were lined up on a shelf, with just one pair of very old downhill boots, whose brand name I did not recognize. Old photos and journals of his mountaineering explorations in South America were displayed on a workbench in the attic of the barn. Many of which would be sent to a university in Chile to be archived.

As impressive as that was, what I found sitting under the cover of a white cardboard box grabbed my interest. It was a baby book with his statistics noted. The cover was satin and the color pink, a particular, I found curious. Born in 1938 in Spokane, Washington, at 3:32 in the afternoon, seven pounds and six ounces. As I thumbed through this, I couldn’t help think that it was an unusual item for an 83-year-old grizzled mountain man to hang onto over the years.

At the memorial, we meditated, wished his soul adieu, chanted, and banged the gong. Many stood to say their piece, and there was grit in the speakers that somehow represented the deceased. A true admiration for his adventurous spirit and strong outdoor skills in the wild was expressed.

Some thoughts that were shared:

  • He was a world-wide traveler, but it was more fun to hear about his adventures than to go on the trips with him.
  • He was a guide back in the ’70s out in Yosemite and saved my life. He even got the Carnegie hero award for it.
  • He was already an old man by the time I knew him. We used to sip coffee out of somewhat clean mugs.
  • I had a baby on his property in a tent.
  • When I first met him. I came to a sheep roast he hosted. We ate meat right off a spit with knives.
  • We worked on the Green Party tether. He gave the longest slideshow ever at a rally. It went on so long the nay-sayers finally got up and left.
  • He was the toughest at the end when he was wasting away.
  • The person who inherited the property remarked with a lilt of sarcasm. “It was an honor to clean up after him. He kept every wool sock he ever owned.”

The last speaker sang a Native American song. Crow, Ute, Apache, I don’t know, but it translated something like this: I’m with the wind now, I’m dead and nothing is going to hold me down. I’m with the wind now, I’m dead and nothing is going to hold me down. Truthfully, that perfectly summed it up.

The last time I saw my neighbor, he had his snowmobile stuck at the end of our driveway in the fresh powder. I helped him get unstuck. I shoveled around the front and the back of the sled, and packed down the snow to make a solid base for the snowmobile to be hoisted upon. We struggled together to haul the sled up onto the platform. He pulled on the cord, fired up the engine and then drove back onto the packed trail. His comment was, “I’m surprised you can get a snowmobile unstuck.” I responded, “I’ve had over 30 years of practice, so not that surprising.” He sped off without a thank you or fond farewell. I had long ago accepted that as his way.

After the memorial, I likened it to reading a book that I didn’t particularly relate to, but went to the book discussion anyway. The group shared that the story did have redeeming qualities, so I came to see its worth. The old coot may not have been shelved among the classics, but he told a tale of high-adventure with little regard for making the bestseller list. True to his roots.


In July 1970, Miller and friend William G. Worthington repeatedly risked their lives to get supplies to fellow climber Hallard B. Kinnison, who had fallen and fractured his femur about 750 feet above the base of Clyde Minaret in Yosemite National Park in California. Fearing that Kinnison would die of shock while awaiting rescue and with night approaching, Miller made a solo descent and walked to a nearby cabin to obtain medicine and supplies. Returning to the cliff, he began his ascent. Once he reached 300 feet, he dwindling strength forced him to lighten his load by leaving most of the supplies on a ledge there. As he continued to ascend, he traversed some parts of the cliff with no safety aid, saving his final rope for the last part of the climb.

Reaching Kinnison, he brought him medicine and a sleeping bag, but asked Worthington to retrieve the rest of the supplies. It was dark then, but with a flashlight Worthington descended 400 feet. He brought the supplies up another 150 feet, but he could not carry them farther and was forced to return to the group empty handed. The flashlight being lost at some point, Miller descended again, this time in total darkness, and retrieved the supplies. The next day a rescue party removed Kinnison who recovered after hospitalization.